The membership of the two unions that represent public school staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District ratified an eleventh-hour agreement with the district last week. 

The ratification marks the likely end of protracted negotiations between the school district and the Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Associations, whose members worked the entirety of last school year under the terms of an expired contract.

The members voted in favor of the agreement by “overwhelming margins,” according to a press release from the unions. The unions did not release the vote tally.

The agreement must still be approved by the school board.

“We’re eager to put this bargain behind us,” said KPEA President David Brighton in a press release. “This vote signifies that our member’s interests were heard, and that a fair agreement was reached. I hope the school board takes quick action to approve this contract so we can all work together to provide the best education possible for the students of our district.”

“I’m very pleased to see a great turnout and a decisive ratification vote by our members,” said KPESA President Anne McCabe in the same release. “This process has taken a long time and we wouldn’t be here today without the support of our dedicated educators, and the parents, students, and community partners who were with us one hundred percent of the way.”

The ratified agreement includes changes to the district’s health insurance plan, the issue that divided the two sides for more than a year. 

Based on a May proposal from the associations, the agreement would see the elimination of the district’s traditional health plan, leaving only two variations on a recently introduced high-deductible plan.

The agreement changes up how the district and its employees share the cost of healthcare. The district will shoulder 85 percent of the cost of healthcare, with no hard limitation on the district’s total contribution. Previous proposals included caps on expenditure, after which the district and employees would split costs equally.

The cost to the district is estimated at $26 million, which is not a significant departure from healthcare costs in the last fiscal year.